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John Wagner Talks Dredd, Looks Back at Sylvester Stallone Version

With all the hubub about The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man, another comic-based film has almost been lost in the shuffle: Dredd. Based on the British comic character Judge Dredd, who debuted in 1977 in the anthology 2000 AD, Dredd stars Karl Urban (The Lord of the Rings, Star Trek) as the law enforcement officer who serves as judge, jury and executioner for the criminals that inhabit Mega-City One.

Hero Complex caught up with Judge Dredd co-creator John Wagner and asked him about the origins of the character, what he would have changed and even a few tidbits about not only the upcoming film but also the 1995 version that starred Sylvester Stallone.

“They told the wrong story — it didn’t have that much to do with Dredd the character as we know him,” Wagner said. “I don’t think Stallone was a bad Dredd, though it would have been better and lent him more cred if he hadn’t revealed his face. He was just Dredd in the wrong story. I envy their budget, though. Some of the CGI was very good, and the re-creations of the Angel Gang and the robot. The robot actually came from a Pat Mills story and didn’t belong in Dredd, but it looked good. If the plot had revolved around characters like them the film would have been more successful.”

Wagner went on to praise the new film: “The plot is about Dredd and his world. It’s impossible to cover every aspect of the character and his city – perhaps that was one of the failings of the first film; they tried to do too much and ended up with not a lot. Dredd homes in on the essential job of judging – instant justice in a violent future city. I like the actors, they’re well cast and they handled their parts well. Olivia Thirlby is perfect as Anderson, the young psi judge. She gives the character a touching vulnerability. Karl Urban will not remove his helmet and will not kiss his co-star.”

Directed by Pete Travis, Dredd also stars Lena Headey (300, Game of Thrones) and Olivia Thirlby (Juno, No Strings Attached). It opens Sept. 21.


  • Orphan

    We can only hope Rob Schneider isn’t around for this.Or was he in some other godawful Stallone flick?

  • Omegasaga

    Visually– Dredd 95 was pretty damn good.

  • Lord Prong

    He was in both Judge Dredd and Demolition Man.  Stallone rocks, but you are a tool.

  • Lord Prong

    I agree with 95% of what Wagner states, but Stallone not taking off the helmet would have resulted in an even bigger box-office flop.  The majority of people who saw Judge Dredd back in 95 went to see it for Stallone and not the character.

    Judge Dredd the comic does not transfer well to film.  The problem with Dredd is that, due to his two-dimensional nature, he comes off like the shark in Jaws.  Just an ominous presence that is a catalyst for his supporting cast to revole around.  Stallone’s film realised this problem, that to make Dredd a three-dimensional character you could relate to, and root for, you needed to see him go through an emotional arc.  That’s why the helmet had to come off (just like Robocop, as cool as he looks, needs scenes where the human face is revealed) and why Dredd had to reveal a range of emotions that were an abberation from the comic.

    The fact that he’s not taking off the helmet leads me to believe that Dredd is not the main focus of the film but that the audience will be following Judge Anderson’s arc.  Not sure if this’ll work, and personally think this approach limits a fine actor like Karl Urban (who we already know what he looks like making not removing the helmet irrelevant) from providing a well-rounded and three-dimensional character.

  • Joe Soap

    I don’t think you realise the type of film this is and the type of film Dredd the comic character is suited for. It’s not that he’s hard to translate, it’s that Hollywood producers tell you this type of film doesn’t make buckets of money for them and they don’t know how to market them, a very dated view-point. The Stallone film was badly conceived for this very reason.

    There are filmic precedents for the type of character/film Dredd is and they don’t involve romantic entanglements or the need for tons of ‘emapthy’. They only require that your antagonists be morally worse than your protagonists, that is how you get the audience on their side, if you so wish. The history of film has plenty of anti-heroes, peole who aren’t particualarly good/moral, have love-interests, moving back-stories or other devices to procure empathy and this is where Dredd differs from RoboCop. Did the Man with no Name have a back-story or love interest? No, of course he didn’t, neither did Snake Plisken or Dirty Harry. Your argument is the conditioning wrought by 80’s Hollywood, not of what is actually achievable or desirable for a modern audience. We also didn’t need to see V’s face from V for Vendetta.

    The problem is this conditioning by the big studios has made the audience forget that you can also have films about fascist, un-emoting bureaucrats doing a job just as much as the ‘heroes’ story and this is the beautiful ambiguity of Dredd.

  • Orphan

    The only tool on board this thread is you right now.

  • Lord Prong

    No – we took a poll and everyone agreed that you were the tool. 

  • Lord Prong

    All those anti-heroes you mention had emotional and character arcs within their films.  They evolved, they changed within the films.  Dredd doesn’t change at all because he’s a two-dimensional character.  He hasn’t changed one iota since his first appearance.  He has no depth as a character at all.  He’s specifically written that way in the comic.  He’s not suited for a film franchise for this very reason (unless you were trying to make a one-note 80’s movie like Cobra).  You mentioned V for Vendetta as well, but that film and comic worked because of the Natalie Portman character, as well as the V character actually displaying a range of emotions and motivations that Dredd doesn’t.  I’ve got an excellent relaisation of the type of film Dredd is trying to be and the type of film the Dredd character is suited for.  Just ’cause it doesn’t agree with yours makes it less relevant dude.

  • He Ain’t That Bad

    I don’t usually take polls but I will give one vote to Orphan being a tool for the disgraceful things he said about Sylvester Stallone!

  • Orphan

    Stallone by Lord (the Tool ) Prong’s own admission was responsible for at least 2 of the worst action films of all time Judge Dredd and Demolition Man let alone the Arm Wrestling flick they may have based that recent Hugh Jackman Robot flick on according to some.Add in The Expendables and afew others and so much for treating Stallone disgracefully.The man had talent at one point and squandered it.He made the bad movies and continues to do so not that Prong or you can tell the difference

  • Lord Prong

    See, the fact that you don’t like those films, and the fact that you are so easy to annoy proves you are a tool.  Not to mention at least two votes in the “tool affirmative column.”  Hurray for Orphan the Tool!!!!  Take a bow buddy – you deserve it : )

  • Orphan

    I’m not annoyed at all.I’m amused,in fact. You just keep proving my point in post after post that you can’t form a legitimate argument beyond gushing fanboy.Hope you get that autograph or whatever you and your sidekick are desperately hoping for.Bad movies are bad movies and if that conflicts with your ego centric orbit so be it.You get the last word on this because I’m out of here.

  • Lord Prong

    I dunno… I see a little toolish anger seeping into your replies : )

  • Jean Cruz

    Hey where’s Wesley Snipes? I was sure he’d make a guest appearance in this reboot film.Yo Wesley man you need to pay your tax already.